The Australian League Of Virtuousness

As Right Evil Bastard of the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia, I take great pleasure in announcing the formation of the newest of our branches; The Australian League Of Virtuousness.

The League, as a division of The Guild, will be responsible for promoting goodness instead of badness – virtue instead of vice – and justice instead of tyranny. This will take place on alternate fortnights or on occasions when The Guild is absent for holidays.

Of course, revenue generated by the League will revert to The Guild and be distributed accordingly. As it is expected that the customers for this new service will be in a proportion of 1:5 – as per the Barnum ratio – there may be a considerable time before excess profits are available to return to The League. But we have hopes that light will prevail over darkness eventually at a rate higher than C.P.I.

Aspirants to the League will be required to demonstrate their committment to social justice, temperance, and anything else that can attract dollars or attention. At this point of time we do not plan to practice any religious ceremonies beyond passing the plate.

Please note that virtuousness is not connected with virtuosity. Virtuosity plays on the violin – we play on the nerves.

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The Return Of The Paper Product

Do you work in a paperless office? A paperless workshop? A paperless house?

I do. Every blessed time I sit down in the toilet and turn to the roll-holder…it is paperless. I have asked for the culprit to come forward so that they may be chastised with the empty tube, but so far no-one has spoken up.

I should welcome a paperless post box out the front of the property… where advertisers did not place their garish pamphlets in the slot at the expense of genuine mail. Of course this is just a fantasy on my part, as paper advertising is a fixed feature of suburbia.

My bank, however, thinks that sending me an electronic signal telling me that another electronic signal is ready to read is the way to go. Then I can print it out on my own paper and show up at their counter to give them money. They are inconsistent – I offered to pay the Mastercard bill for the month with money that I printed myself on the inkjet and they went all cold and stern. I think bank people are all of a type. I am currently taking my revenge by not using the Mastercard and saving my money in my back pocket  – it is a strange feeling of power. Lumpy, but exhilarating.

I am also cozened by the utility companies to stop receiving paper bills and go onto a system that allows them to dip my bank account whenever they feel like it. This is normally the sort of offer that you get from strange Indian people on the telephone – I’m not entirely convinced that giving either of them my credit card numbers is a good idea. They may not agree to help me boycott the bank and it might all turn very petty and vindictive. I have offered to send home-made money to India but they are not as resilient a people as you might think. $ 14 bills make them nervous.

I do welcome the idea of paperless packaging, though. With our new council plans for collecting the rubbish on the years that Halley’s Comet returns, I can see the bin getting fuller than before. Of course some paper will compost down to become sludge and filth, and one cannot have too much good sludge in your life. In the long intervals between GOT seasons it proves mental stimulation.

Note: I am not against direct deposit per se…as long as they leave some paper on the roll.

 

 

 

How Would Sir Like His Communication This Morning?

Please place the letters on the silver tray in the hall, Jenkins. Printed pamphlets, flyers, advertising catalogues, and real estate notices may be dropped unread into the recycling bin on the way into the house.

Please route the electronic letters to one of my two accounts. The commercial ones may be sent through to the studio address – the personal ones into the private address. The writers will know which to use from the email communications I have sent them originally. Unfortunately there will be a modicum of unwanted commercial material mixed in as well, but I shall institute means by which it can be held at bay.

I do not think I shall be taking the Facebook this morning. Perhaps later in the week, if there is no other pressing matter. Or later in the month.

Likewise, you need not switch on the television apparatus in the sitting room today. I have several books open on my side table in the library and I do not wish to be distracted by the sight of murders or gasoline explosions.

Do dust the wireless, however, as I shall be using it today as I write. I find the old-time radio station and the ABC classical music a soothing way to screen out other background sounds. And I do feel it a good idea to listen to the ABC news at least once a day. Not that the news is all that good, all that often, and the ABC has a decided political bias, but it is as well to know what the weather will be for the coming few days.

Should there be a call on the telephone, please listen carefully to the first few seconds of it. If there is silence, then a hiss, then a confused gabble of sounds in the background, you might be connected to a steam room in Bengal, Manila, or Mysore. The person who tells you their name – invariably a staunchly Anglo-Saxon one given in a strong subcontinental or islands accent – will be from a technical department of Microsoft. They wish you to give them code numbers for bank accounts and credit cards. Please feel free to replace the receiver on the cradle at any time.

The mobile telephone will be another matter. It will ring for only a very short period of time and then go silent. The call will be recorded as missed or the caller will try to leave a message, which will be next to impossible to retrieve. This is normal and desirable.

As far as personal callers, please ask them to state their business before admitting them to the house. Those canvassing for solar power panels may be referred to the roof, which they will then observe is covered in the things already. Those who press for my attention upon spiritual matters may be referred to my religious adviser,  Mr. Thomas Paine. Anyone selling raffle tickets, clothespegs, or books of discount vouchers should be addressed though first the locked screen door and then through the firmly closed main door. ” Goodbye ” is a useful word.

Telegrams? I have not seen one for three decades. I doubt they still exist, though I would welcome one just out of nostalgia. Not a sad one – perhaps one announcing a win in the Irish Sweepstakes. I miss those.

Now, I must to my desk. I have an essay to write: ” Have We Lost Touch With Ourselves? “.  A catchy title, I think, what…?

 

 

Free the Political Prismers

Don’t I mean political prisoners? No, though it might be a nice gesture for them, too.  And in some cases it would give them a welcome opportunity to take their turn as the local tyrant and imprison others. A game of musical cells…

What I really want is freedom from the complimentary rainbow that WordPress stuck on my blog page some weeks ago. As pleasant as it might look, and as charming as the cause for which it advocates may be, it is a banner that has little to do with the rest of the writing. It is also a little cloying.

I hope that when the results of the same-sex-Simon-Says plebiscite are announced and the business goes off to the parliament for resolution that the WordPress operators will take it off again. They can bombard their members of parliament with as many rainbows as they like, but I’d appreciate a return to normal* round here. If people want bands of colour, I can make them in Photoshop and string them all over the place.

Here’s one advocating triple-expansion cylinders for French steam locomotives. I think it deserves your support.

 

*  Normal is not a good thing to define as it tends to make the neighbors nervous.

The Authentic Fake News Site Vs The False-Flag Rumour Forum List Meme

If we were asked to characterize the social media that we use – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. – in terms of food, what would we make it out to be?

a. Facebook: A crusty stew with appetizing aromas at the edges – aromas that never actually seem to be there when you search for them. The occasional bubble in the centre indicating heat. And a roiling mass of unsavoury ingredients just under the crust. Cat hair here and there. And unicorn glitter.

b. Twitter: A Pez dispenser. You poke the ornamental head at the top and a hard pellet of opinion is popped out of the screen. Some of the pellets taste like sugar and some of them taste like horse shit. None of them do you any good at all.

c. Instagram: Magnificently plated, superbly coloured, and unavailable to someone like you at this time. Just look and envy.

d. Pinterest: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and so is the food. The reason is mould. Subscribe now.

e. The personal blog: Someone’s home cooking. Not necessarily bad, but nevertheless someone else’s pots and pans. Taste at your peril. They may not be a good cook. You may not be a good eater.

If we had been presented with today’s social media news in the 1950’s or 1960’s we would likely have recognised it for what it is – propaganda and commercial promotion. The flimsiest of the flam. Those of us who saw the lies when they came on newsprint and left ink stains on the fingers…or who waded through innumerable cigarette advertisements in magazines…react entirely differently to those who have only ever seen a screen. We may not know how to turn that screen on and make it dance, but we know when to turn it off and do our own thinking.

Of course we can be wrong when we do that – original thought can be as bad as the store-bought stuff – but as we use simpler ingredients and have less access to processors, it is likely to be fresher and tastier. It may lack the salt and scandal that is added by unknown hackers but it nourishes us just the same.

Bit riskier when we send it to our friends and neighbours, though. As our own thoughts are unlikely to be covered by the legal indemnities enjoyed by professional liars, we are in danger of being detected and having our opinions challenged. Most of us have no biased reports or dodgy scientific studies to back us up and common sense has long been discredited as a way of living. The best we can do when some other madman challenges our own mania is throw out a smokescreen of kitten and Hitler memes and close the account.

Anyone who either agrees or disagrees with this will be instantly defriended with the prickly end of an emoji.

Fantasy For The Prosaic

Can it be that the makers of the fluoxetine medication known as Prozac were thinking of the English word ” prosaic ” when they named it? Given that the word means commonplace, dull, unimaginative, etc. and the drug is used to try to lift people from depression, it seems the wrong choice. I have no experience with depression, but I would have thought a more spirited name would be better…

Well, coming away from that speculation, today I would like to invite HAW readers to imagine what fiction they would read if they do not read fiction. What novel would rivet a person whose normal reading is a price list. If dry-goods clerks were fulfilled and satisfied with life behind the counter…what would they turn to in an idle hour?

It’s almost like the quandary that confidence tricksters are in when they have to figure out how to con an honest man. How do you inveigle away the mind of someone who has a mind that doesn’t want, or need, to go?

Well, back to our dry-goods clerk, or seed store employee – what you need to do as an author or bookseller is to capitalise on the mindset of the prosaic person to provide that stimulus. No good starting your novel out with ” It was a dark and stormy night…” if  the reader is normally home in bed on them, and perfectly happy. Worse – you might get a weather maniac who knows all the air-movement patterns over the eastern half of the continent and who will start up in indignation and throw it back on the remainder table when you try to describe something that is meteorologically impossible.

No – start your story out with lists of sensible things that a normal person would like to know. How to drive moths out of a pantry, or what the drying rate of acrylic paint is in June. Make sure you have correct technical information and do remember your punctuation. Then, after a chapter or two of ways to seal asphalt, you can introduce a girl with a heaving bosom – presumably after a day spent tarring a road. By that time the reader is fully into the swing of things and can accept a little romance – even if it is somewhat sweaty and tar-spotted.

Don’t try to stray too far from lists. Throw in a basic recipe every now and then. Describe the operation of a useful machine and its maintenance. You may wish to include the odd murder or seduction in case the book gets into the hands of children, but keep them simple and homely affairs.

The best thing about writing for the prosaic reader is the fact that most of the text can be drawn from cook books, mining manuals, and the Amanach de Gotha.

Hold My Beer

Please excuse me for using what is rapidly becoming a cliché meme, but I wanted to get this one in before the Thought Police arrive and load me into the van.

It is entirely possible to live your life without offending anyone. Just ask a mollusc. Hardly any bivalves sitting on the floor of the sea receive nasty messages on Facebook. Few of them are called racist or phobic. They live their lives in harmony with…gravel and weeds. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.

Let’s be honest here ( And in saying that, I realise that I must apologise to all the liars out there. Sorry Mr Nixon…) we are all going to offend someone, somewhere, at some time. We cannot pass our lives without engendering bad feelings in others. In my own case, I have started in on the near relatives and am working outwards…

As we are bound to do it, we might as well do it early, do it thoroughly, and then be done with it. In this we are fortunate – there are groups of people in general society who wish to take umbrage at everything. If we can connect with them, supply a known quantity of offense and receive a measured amount of outrage, we can then all take Friday afternoon off and go to the pub. ( Minus the WCTU contingent, of course…)

To this end the BGA is going to start a register that will connect potential unwitting oppressors with people who would like to claim to be victims. Abuse/outrage ratios can be agreed to beforehand and arrangements made for confrontation at times that will be mutually convenient. With proper planning we can hire coffee vans and porta-loos as well as crowds.

Currently we are reviewing the public statuary of Australia to see if there are any examples that can be torn down and carted away to satisfy some portion of the populace. As yet, the only complaints have been about abstract works of art put up outside council premises and it would appear that the demands for their removal ( on grounds of the price tag ) have come from the ratepayers. I think there will need to be a Royal Commission on this and that means I get a white Toyota and a fact-finding mission to Biarritz.

Beauty!